out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a line that marks the outer limits of an object or figure : boundary the jagged outline of the mountains
b : shape the sharpening outline of her face— Willa Cather
2a : a style of drawing in which contours are marked without shading drew a dog in outline
b : a sketch in outline prepared several outlines of the suggested mural
3a : a condensed treatment of a particular subject an outline of world history
b : a summary of a written work : synopsis Students were required to give an outline for each assigned paper.
4 : a preliminary account of a project : plan gave the class an outline of the points he intended to cover
5 : a fishing line set out overnight


outlined; outlining; outlines

Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to draw the outline of
2 : to indicate the principal features or different parts of outlined their responsibilities

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Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for outline


outline, contour, profile, silhouette mean the line that bounds and gives form to something. outline applies to a line marking the outer limits or edges of a body or mass. traced the outline of his hand contour stresses the quality of an outline or a bounding surface as being smooth, jagged, curving, or sharply angled. a car with flowing contours profile suggests a varied and sharply defined outline against a lighter background. a portrait of her face in profile silhouette suggests a shape especially of a head or figure with all detail blacked out in shadow leaving only the outline clearly defined. photograph in silhouette against a bright sky

Examples of outline in a Sentence

Noun The pictures were drawn in outline and then filled in with color. The leaves etched into the vase have a gold outline. Organize your essay by writing an outline in which you state your main idea followed by your supporting points. a brief outline of American history Her speech was written in outline on note cards. Verb The President outlined his agenda for the next term. The book outlines the major events of the country's history. All players must follow the rules outlined above.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The hot orange outline of a man is distinguishable, and he is engaged in digging a grave. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Atlantis': Film Review | Venice 2019," 7 Sep. 2019 Step 2: Line the eyes with black eyeshadow Create a thicker, smudgy outline around the eyes and even on your lids. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "We Can't Get Enough of This Easy Vampire Makeup Tutorial for Halloween," 15 Aug. 2019 The body of the tower is decorated with a floral outline. Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "West Chester gets a makeover - or at least, their logo does," 13 Aug. 2019 Trace outline; cut out, forming garland (end skull will be half-skull). Joan Lang, Woman's Day, "Skeleton Garland," 9 Sep. 2019 Ancient handprints and outlines were also incorporated into the natural undulations in the cave walls. Meghan Miner Murray, National Geographic, "9 of Europe’s underground marvels," 2 Aug. 2019 His politics hew closely to a baby-boomer outline, which is to say that they are deeply felt, heraldically blue, and largely incoherent just beneath the surface. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?," 22 July 2019 Consider this a makeup beginner’s outline to layering your makeup, step by step. Jessica Cruel, SELF, "Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide to How I Apply My Makeup Every Day," 21 Apr. 2018 As covered by Modern Farmer, a new report by The King's Fund, a U.K. healthcare nonprofit, outlines exactly why doctors should prescribe gardening therapy as a remedy for everything from anxiety to cancer. Maria Carter, Country Living, "Gardening Could Be the Answer to All of Your Problems, According to Science," 19 May 2016 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The plan, required by the Federal Aviation Administration, is expected to outline major capital recommendations for the airport, including the possibility of a new terminal. Susan Glaser, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Hopkins will keep shuttle drop off at north end of terminal; improvements planned," 12 Sep. 2019 At the heart of the matter is an attempt to outline exactly what a contribution to broader society could look like for museums today. Suyin Haynes, Time, "Why a Plan to Redefine the Meaning of 'Museum' Is Stirring Up Controversy," 9 Sep. 2019 Singer Kelly Clarkson will host a half hour program to outline the results of the national campaign tonight at 7 p.m. on WTVJ-Ch. 6 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Johnny Diaz, sun-sentinel.com, "Kelly Clarkson hosting NBC and Telemundo’s ‘Clear the Shelters’ pet adoptions special," 23 Aug. 2019 Backers launched a new website, wildfirerecoverynow.com, to outline their reasons for pushing the plan. Dustin Gardiner, SFChronicle.com, "PG&E CEO asks lawmakers to approve $20 billion debt plan," 21 Aug. 2019 Vega and a small faint parallelogram below it are supposed to outline a celestial harp. Mike Lynch, Twin Cities, "Sky Watch: There are many delights to be found in August’s evening skies," 4 Aug. 2019 There, cabinet responsibility and party discipline have broken down, ministers break the ministerial code of conduct and traditions of parliamentary procedure, such as holding a Queen’s Speech to outline legislative proposals, are ignored. The Economist, "Are Western democracies becoming ungovernable?," 1 Aug. 2019 Or, use a liquid liner to outline your entire lid, keeping the pen in the crease rather than on the lash-line, and create a geometric look that pops. Maya Mcdowell, Marie Claire, "The Buzziest Beauty Microtrends of Summer 2019," 24 July 2019 Overlap sliced strawberries or plums for scales and use sliced fruit to outline heads and make mouths. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "No-Bake Summer Fruit Tart," 18 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'outline.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of outline


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for outline

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for outline

The first known use of outline was in 1662

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More Definitions for outline


How to pronounce outline (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a drawing or picture that shows only the shape of an object
: a style of drawing in which only the outer edges of an object are shown
: a line that is drawn around the edges of something



English Language Learners Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

: to draw a line around the edges of (something)
: to list or describe only the most important parts of (an essay, speech, plan, etc.) : to give an outline of (something)


out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Kids Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a line that traces or forms the outer limits of an object or figure and shows its shape
2 : a drawing or picture or style of drawing in which only the outer edges of an object or figure are shown outlines of animals
3 : an often numbered or lettered list of the important parts of something (as an essay)
4 : a short treatment of a subject an outline of world history


outlined; outlining

Kids Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to draw or trace the outer edges of Outline the circle in gold.
2 : to list or describe the main features or parts of … Mother went on outlining her plans for the storeroom.— Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill

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More from Merriam-Webster on outline

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for outline

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with outline

Spanish Central: Translation of outline

Nglish: Translation of outline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of outline for Arabic Speakers

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